Customer story: South East Water, AU

Utility Bill Simulator
'screenshot of 'South East Water, AU
'screenshot of 'South East Water, AU

A better way to communicate water bills

South East Water is a metropolitan water retailer to Melbourne, Australia. In 2017, they submitted a draft Water and Sewerage Price Plan for 2018-2023. Water rates aren't exactly the most popular of bills, and consumers are often frustrated at the costs involved.

In an effort to try and increase public understanding of costing decisions and the associated process, South East Water undertook a huge consultation and engagement effort with the public surrounding the draft Plan.

South East Water complemented traditional engagement approaches with a Utility Bill Simulator for water rates, and the results and participation rates overwhelmingly exceeded their expectations.

The decision to use Simulator as a major consultation tool provided South East Water with the opportunity to engage a greater cross-section of its customers in a unique, convenient and cost-effective way.

This phase of their engagement process was remarkably successful, garnering more contributions than all the other phases combined. All in all, nearly 4000 people responded to the Simulator. Over 90 per cent of respondents took the time to provide additional detail to just moving the sliders, including free text comments and demographic information, resulting in a wealth of meaningful data and feedback.

Success of that calibre doesn't come without hard work, and perhaps the key is knowing exactly the best areas in which to invest that effort. For Beverley de Kretser and the team at South East Water it came down to two elements:

  • refining the user experience
  • effectively communicating to the public

Refined user experience

Simulator is easy to use, whilst also delivering a lot of contextual information about the results of choices, without ovewhelming the user. The result is that the user is able to intuitively understand the different elements involved in making a complex decision.

Simulator is also fully responsive, meaning it works on desktop, mobile and everything in between. This ensures that it's accessible from anywhere.

Effective communication

South East Water used a multi-channel communications approach to reach a wide range of customers.

To best cater for the high cultural and linguistic diversity of its customer base, South East Water ran targeted print and social media ads in the top three languages other than English in its region. The Facebook advertisements – both in English and other languages, resulted in high online conversion rates.

A radio interview on Melbourne's most popular morning talkback station exposed Simulator to hundreds of thousands of listeners, and helped attract complimentary local newspaper coverage. Employees and community facilities also helped promote Simulator by handing out business-style card promotions in public spaces like train station and libraries. South East Water also sent out a mass direct email marketing campaign using their own communication programme, 'Have your say'.

Tweet from South East Water Aus stating: ’56% of people on our bill simulator so far, support ongoing expansion of alternative water to new growth areas. You?’ to enourage others to have their say on what they’ll pay.

Exceptional results

No doubt the multi-channel approach, along with their laser focus on user experience, helped achieve enviable results of participation from stakeholders and the community.

Over 5,690 customers were directly involved in South East Water's 14 month program, nearly 4,000 of which chose Simulator as their preferred way to have their say.

Guide: how to engage consumers with their water bill using Simulator.

"One of the challenges we had was understanding their willingness to pay for them and what trade-offs, if any, they might make – Simulator provided a great way for us to do this.

Simulator not only made this phase of the engagement easier and cost-effective for us, the participation rates and feedback indicate it was appreciated by our customers too– now that's value for everyone."

Beverley de Kretser - South East Water, Australia

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